In Transit in Bangkok

June 26, 2016 ASEAN Backpacking

Bangkok is one of my most visited cities outside the Philippines. My recent visit was a stopover before heading to Chiang Mai. Initially, my plan was to go straight to Chiang Mai, but my friends insisted I experience the train journey from Bangkok. Where I'm from, trains are considered the worst mode of transportation, but they assured me it's a unique experience.

They were coming from Cambodia, starting their journey in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, then proceeding to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap—a route I had already taken. While I would have loved to join them for the entire journey, I needed to save money, so we decided to meet in Bangkok.

I arrived in Bangkok shortly after midnight, and accommodation was arranged for me at Suneta Hostel Khaosan. Expecting to stay on Khao San Road, I had initially planned to stay up until morning, as Pico Iyer wrote that Bangkok is best experienced at 3:00 AM. However, Suneta was located on an unfamiliar street called Kraisi Road. The only interesting establishment I saw in that street was a pad thai food truck parked in front of the hotel, which had already hung its closed sign. The street wasn't as lit up as Pico Iyer described, so I decided to hit the sack and planned a full day of wandering.

Being a tourist

The following day, the street was lined with garment stalls, and I browsed through a few items they were selling. Armed with the little map and a calling card from Suneta's reception desk, I set out to wander. After a few steps, I encountered familiar sights—the souvenir stalls, street food, foot massage areas, and bars. That's when I knew I was already in the Bangkok I am familiar with. I noted the locations of the 7/11s and took some pictures. It wasn't until halfway through that I realized I was already in Soi Rambuttri, my favorite street in Bangkok.

Soi Rambuttri runs parallel to the backpackers’ mecca, Khao San Road. It's often described as the well-behaved brother of Khao San Road, and many backpackers are already gravitating toward this street.

Despite the numerous restaurant options, all of which looked intriguing, I found myself in my usual spot, ordering my usual food, and exchanging smiles with the familiar faces around me.

The rest of the day unfolded like the typical tourist experience in Bangkok – exploring vibrant markets, indulging in soothing foot massages, savoring local delicacies, and enjoying refreshing drinks.

Temple Hopping

My friends arrived the night before, and we planned a full day of temple hopping in Bangkok City and Ayutthaya, just an hour away.

At 7:00 in the morning, Kraisi Road had a different vibe. The street, which was lined with street food the night before, now featured vibrant fruit and flower stands.

Bangkok is truly a city of surprises, a place of stark contrasts. Amidst the hustle of its busy roads, the gold-painted spires of its Buddhist temples emerge.

Our morning itinerary included the three must-see temples of Bangkok - Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun.

Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, stands out as one of the city’s most popular attractions. Visitors, adorned in modest attire, are not allowed to take photos of the Buddha.

The renowned ‘Reclining Buddha’ takes center stage at Wat Pho. Housed in a purpose-built building, this colossal 46-meter-long reclining Buddha is a sight to behold. The complex also features several other Buddha images.

Wat Pho holds the distinction of being the birthplace of traditional Thai Massage.

Across the river stands the iconic Wat Arun, also known as the ‘Temple of the Dawn’. Named after the Hindu god Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun, the temple boasts a main feature—a central prang (Khmer-style tower) adorned with vibrant, colorful porcelain.


Leaving Bangkok

After a whole afternoon exploring Ayutthaya, we boarded a train bound for Chiang Mai.

Saying goodbye to Bangkok was not easy. I knew I would miss its myriad colors, the familiar chaos, and the intriguing duality of its character. Although I had been there in transit on previous occasions, it never failed to gift me with some of my happiest memories. Once again, I promised myself that I would return and spend more time immersing in the vibrant energy of Bangkok.

Until next time, Bangkok!

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